Income Report: How Did Our Online Store Do In 2013 And Are We Still Growing?

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In my mid year income report that I published in July, I mentioned that the first half of 2013 was extremely challenging for our online store.

Google traffic was down. We had a bad month of February due to inclement weather. Our year over year revenues ending in July were only only up by 12%. But you know what? Facing some adversity turned out to be a good thing for my wife and I because it woke us up from our complacent slumber.

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We stopped coasting along and became determined to find new ways to extract profits from our online store. Therefore the theme for 2013 became the year of revenue diversification.

Not only that, but we also put more infrastructure in place to further remove ourselves from the day to day operations and to focus more on customer acquisition.

New Traffic Sources

As I mentioned in our mid year report, we expanded our reach internationally by shipping to Canada, United Kingdom and Australia in the beginning of 2013.

We also maxed out on all of the major Comparison Shopping Engines which further expanded our marketing reach.

In June, I also completely redesigned our online store website which improved our conversion rate and site speed.


During the latter half of 2013, we added a few new traffic sources to the mix as well. For one thing we started using remarketing more heavily. For all of you who are unfamiliar with remarketing, remarketing is the act of reaching out and targeting specific customers who have already visited your online store.

In fact, if you’ve ever noticed advertisements mysteriously following you across the web, you’ve probably already seen remarketing in action. Anyways, remarketing is based on the premise that customers who have already been to your website are far more likely to buy from you.

As a result, if you can tag your existing customers with cookies, then you can show these customers special advertisements that tend to convert at a very high percentage.

So in the second half of 2013, we increased our investment in our search, display and dynamic remarketing campaigns that ended up converting very well for us.

We Revived Our Email Marketing List

email marketing

While we’ve been continuously gathering emails for our online store, we’ve also been neglecting our email list by not sending out emails regularly. As you probably know, an email list is completely useless unless you actually keep in contact with your customers and we hadn’t sent out an email in a very long time.

As a result, our list started getting a bit stale. Now I could give you 100 reasons why we stopped emailing people, but there was really no excuse other than laziness. (Un)Fortunately, a less than stellar first half of the year made us realize that we needed to be firing on all cylinders in order to maintain growth.

So towards the end of 2013, I re-established contact with our customers and promptly launched several very successful email campaigns. Our open rate ended up being on the order of 32% with a 12.6% click through rate which is pretty darn good for a semi-stale list.

In 2014, email marketing will be a more integral part of our revenue stream.

Infrastructure, Infrastructure, Infrastructure

2013 was also about putting together more infrastructure to outsource more of the day to day work. Even though we have 2 employees, for the longest time my wife was hesitant to hand off any task that involved sales or financial data.

For example, she didn’t want our employees to see the actual invoices for orders coming in. And for a while, she was even a bit hesitant to hand over the task of printing shipping labels. And the main reason for this was because we didn’t have 2 separate logins for our online store.

At the time, there was only a single “admin” login which provided 100% access to every aspect of our website. So one of the tasks I performed in 2013 was to design a special “staff” interface for our employees that matched my wife’s specifications.

This new interface restricted access to just the bare minimum amount of information necessary to pack and ship orders and perform basic customer support.

Now that this new staff interface is in place, all of the day to day tasks can now be handed off without fear of exposing our financials or any sensitive website data.

In addition, my wife also asked me to code up some new special reports in the backend to help speed up order processing and accounting. Basically, I was her own personal code monkey and wrote up whatever feature she wanted to see. The results? Operations became much more streamlined in the latter half of the year.

The Numbers

Ok, now let’s cut to the chase. How did we do in 2013? Below are some highlights.

  • Year over year revenue grew 18%
  • Year over year profit grew 16%
  • SG&A went up as a percentage of revenue
  • Our average order size increased by $2 and the average number of orders per day went up as well
  • Our overall conversion rate increased by 29%
  • Our average value per visitor increased by 36%

Highlights For The Year

The biggest highlight and thrill ride of the year was making the Today Show! In fact, I wrote an article entitled, How 12 Seconds On The NBC Today Show Blew Up Sales And How We Prepared For The Traffic, which you should checkout if you have a free moment.

In a nutshell, 12 seconds of exposure on national television led us to our highest grossing day of sales ever! About a week later, we were also featured on a radio show (Star 94 FM) which further boosted our reach.

In addition to television and radio, we continued to be featured in popular magazines and blogs. We got a full page in Country Living and had numerous wedding and craft blogs cover our products as well.

Overall, it was a great year in terms of media exposure.

Lowlights For The Year

The one lowlight for the year was that overall Google traffic dropped year over year as a result of the various algorithm changes. Things have stabilized now but for a while, I was worried that the big box stores were going to take over.

Bumblebee Linens Blog

That being said, the new Google changes have lit a fire under my butt and we plan on going full force with our company blog next year. By putting out great craft content on a regular basis and doing the same blogger outreach that made popular, we plan on increasing our domain strength in 2014.

Another thing that adversely affected revenue was the fact that we closed the shop during the latter half of September so that my wife and I could travel to Italy for a buying trip.

While we probably didn’t need to shut down the shop, we didn’t want to deal with potential high order volumes while we were away. Traveling to Italy was not a lowlight per se but it did reduce sales that month.

Overall, the only other lowlight I can think of is that running our business is starting to incur more and more overhead as we continue to grow but that is to be expected. Gone are the days when we could run our business for only 80 bucks a month.

What’s In Store For Next Year?

The theme for 2014 is going to be conversion optimization. I know for a fact that we aren’t eeking out every last ounce of sales from our existing products so running more split tests is going to be a major goal for the year.

The hardest part about testing is coming up with different variations of copy to try, setting up the test correctly and figuring out what aspects of the site to change. The good thing is that I’ve run many split tests in the past and it’s something that I enjoy doing.

In terms of product, we plan on introducing a few new high end product lines which should help boost our margins. We also have a content strategy in place to attract a loyal following which should hopefully bolster our search rankings. Should be an exciting 2014!

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9 thoughts on “Income Report: How Did Our Online Store Do In 2013 And Are We Still Growing?”

  1. Megan says:

    An inspiring recap, thank you for sharing so many details of your business with us.

    This year I plan on doing more PR outreach and posting to my site’s blog, which will hopefully help me get seen by Google, to which I am currently invisible.

  2. Joe says:

    Great job overall. Congratulation on the Today show segment too. You can’t buy that kind of PR. Any plan to recover from the Google hit?

  3. Holly says:

    Congrats Steve! You’re an inspiration 🙂

  4. John says:

    Keep up the great work Steve! Hope you have a great 2014!

  5. Chihoe says:

    Congrats Steve!

  6. Carole@Rustic Artistry says:

    Congrats on having positive numbers. Have you ever reached out to the wedding planner bloggers for guest posts or advertising? The cost to run ads on blogs is quite low and could be an economically effective way to reach your target audience. Another idea, which is free, is to participate in their link up parties where you only need to post a thumbnail and title and it could link to one of your tutorials.

    On another note, I’d love it if you would put together a post or video tutorial on remarketing. I’m about to get started with that and am hungry for help. Maybe even start with how to set up our Google merchant accounts and data feeds.

    1. Steve C says:

      Hi Carole,
      I’ve dabbled with buying ads on blogs and didn’t get a positive ROI in the past. Now that’s not to say that it doesn’t work, but my initial attempts were not as profitable as some of my other channels. Perhaps it’s time to revisit.

      These days, I’m trying to stay away from link up parties and roundups as they could be considered low quality links. As for a tutorial on remarketing, I just put one together for the the class but mostly likely won’t make it to MWQHJ. Thanks for the comment!

      1. Carole@Rustic Artistry says:

        I’m curious as to why link ups are considered low quality. I want to avoid them too if they are.

  7. Wendy says:

    Hey Steve! Nice recap. I’d like to know more about your email efforts. We have a large subscriber list but I am also remiss in not sending out newsletters. How often do you send them – and what do you put in them, just sales announcements, etc.? That’s really something I struggle to find a good balance with.

    Also will be avidly reading the GMA recap, as our store will be featured on HSN (GULP GULP GULP!!) in April/May time frame. I’ve been told to basically get ready for the avalance – was that your experience?

    Great stuff and I look forward to digging into your archives!

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